writer's block

Social Capital Conference: Four years of fabulous

Saying goodbye with a smile.As some of you may know, Lara and I announced a couple weeks ago that this year would be our last organizing the Social Capital Conference. As two of the founders - and since Lara had the idea in the first place - I’m sure you can imagine that it was a difficult decision. It’s something we’ve been talking about for two years, in fact. We could see that long ago that we’d have to do something that far back. 

The conference was born out of a need for an opportunity to learn more about social media without having to travel far and wide to do it. We wanted to focus on learning and partnered with uOttawa and then Algonquin to support that focus. It worked. Year after year, we’ve had such amazing feedback on the sessions and the vibe of the conference. We’ve even had people fly in from both ends of the country to attend! It has been wonderful to be in the position of helping people learn more, inspiring people to progress to new levels, and bring them together to make connections. (If you’re not meeting people in person that you connect with online, you’re really missing out - I promise.)

This year, we’ve been seeing a lot of growth in our business and it was as clear as it could be that it was time to step away from Social Capital. We made the decision and we have no regrets or second thoughts. Our final conference was a success that we’re very proud of - we’re leaving this chapter of our work on a definite high note. 

I must admit that I was nervous going into this year’s conference. The growth we’ve experienced in our business made it harder to give the conference the attention it deserves and needs. It has been a fabulous problem to have, but it was still a problem. It was also the catalyst for finally letting go. We managed to pull off the day successfully and I hope that our divided focus wasn’t too painfully obvious. 

The speakers I got to see (Ariadni Athanassiadis, Mel Coulson, and Jenna Jacobson) were all really good. I learned more about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and other intellectual property concerns in social media from Ariadni - and had a chance to whine a wee bit about how frustrating it all is. Mel was so funny and engaging and gave amazing examples of great content and advice for creating great content. (Also, because she’s a professional writer, I was just wee bit nervous that she sat in on my writer’s block session! But I learned after it was over that she’s a very good live tweeter.) Jenna Jacobson, our closing kenote (sadly, logistics caused me to miss Trefor Munn-Venn’s in the morning…sigh) gave such a fun and informative overview of what “social capital” really is. I was excited about her presentation and she did a great job. I also think I want to get a PhD in information just like her. Because the things she’s studying sound incredibly fascinating (and also very cool)!

The networking is always my favourite part of the conference. Unfortunately, I get pulled in roughly a million different directions, so I miss out on a lot of the time for networking throughout the day. Maybe next year - if someone else takes it over - I’ll get to spend more time talking with all the amazing people who come.

To everyone who has supported us these last four years in any way - thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s been such an amazing experience for me and I’ve learned so much from the various speakers we’ve had as well as all the attendees who’ve come each year to learn with us.

Blogging: a story is worth repeating

Lately, everything I write feels stale (sort of like the writer’s block I had in the Fall).  I’ve written so many blog posts on so many topics that I keep having deja vu every time I start writing.  So today I am going to write a post reminding myself of all the things that I tell my clients about why you can write about the same topic repeatedly without it being a problem.

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1) Not everyone has seen every blog post you’ve written

Your audience changes, and it grows. On top of all the new readers you probably didn’t have last time you wrote about a subject, not everyone actually sees and reads everything you write, and not everyone remembers everything they’ve read.  In the end, how many people will actually think “she’s written this before!” and even more importantly, mind? The answer is, not many.

2) Things change

Even if you’ve written about something before, chances are quite high that you’re now coming at it from a different angle as you revisit it.  You have new experience and new knowledge, and whatever prompted you to write about the topic is probably different than it was the last time you wrote about it.  That changes the perspective, the facts, and the overall tone and message of the post.

3) Repeat repeat repeat

Just because people have heard something before doesn’t mean they couldn’t get something valuable out of hearing it again. Repetition is important.  I know that I often need to hear something a few times before I start taking it seriously or take any action.

So what does all of this mean for you and your content?

It means that not only should you be OK with writing about topics you’ve written about before, but that you can actually go through your old posts and your analytics to see what topics were particularly popular and plan to write about them again. Instead of being held back, you’ve now got more to write about!

A nice bonus is that the more you write great content on a subject, the more likely Google is to rank you as a credible source on that topic.  It’s win win.

So on that note, over the coming weeks you can look forward to some old topics coming back again.  If you have any preferences on which topics, leave me a comment and let me know!

What to do when you get writer's block

Lately every time I sit down to write a blog post I hit a wall.  I can usually get a paragraph or two out but then it just won’t come any more.

I’ve started blog posts on why small businesses need to use social media, on Facebook ads, about personality in your writing…. they’re all saved and closed because getting them finished seemed impossible.

We all hit walls

We are constantly encouraging people to write a lot of content.  Content for their blogs, websites, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and sometimes more!  We know it isn’t always easy.  Even when we know what we want to say, sometimes the words just don’t come out.

What can we do?

I decided that instead of hitting my head against my desk because I couldn’t complete a number of posts even though I knew what I wanted to say I was going to write a post about overcoming writer’s block (hoping that the change of subject would help me overcome my own).

I googled and I read all kinds of articles and I’m going to share some of the tips that struck me most.  Oh, and one of them I saw repeatedly was “Write about something else” so this totally wasn’t procrastinating!   

Free writing

Just write.  Write anything that comes into your head.  Do you remember stream of consciousness exercises?  Do that.  In my opinion, it would be even better with a pen and paper, but wherever you write, just let your brain throw anything it wants out. Write until it doesn’t seem difficult anymore.

This quote from Maya Angelou really made me smile too.  Irritate your muse into getting back into action:

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

Mind mapping

What are you trying to say?  Map out the entire thing. 

I know that I have a tendency to have an idea and think “I know where I’m going to go with this” and then wonder why I’m sitting halfway through not knowing what to say next.  Break it down.  

  • What are you writing about?
  • Why are you writing about it?
  • Who are you writing it for?
  • What are you telling them?
  • Are you making suggestions?
  • Breaking down the steps on how to do something?
  • How will you conclude what you had to say? 
  • What was the key thing they should have taken from all you wrote?
  • And finally, what do you want them to do next?

Now that every part of what you wanted to say is down on paper, it may be a lot easier to tie it all together into the style of writing you’re looking for.

Tell someone else

I loved this piece of advice from John Steinbeck because I could immediately see how it would work for me.  If I had someone ask me to tell them why social media for business was important, I would have no problem doing it.  Writing it as an article is an entirely different proposition.

“Many years ago, I met John Steinbeck at a party in Sag Harbor, and told him that I had writer’s block. And he said something which I’ve always remembered, and which works. He said, “Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” And at the time I was enamored of Jean Seberg, the actress, and I had to write an article about taking Marianne Moore to a baseball game, and I started it off, “Dear Jean … ,” and wrote this piece with some ease, I must say. And to my astonishment that’s the way it appeared in Harper’s Magazine. “Dear Jean …” Which surprised her, I think, and me, and very likely Marianne Moore.”

— John Steinbeck by way of George Plimpton

Go write something

Next time you’re stuck on a piece of writing, try one of the above tricks or check out some of these resources with other tips.  And if you have a really great way you battle through writer’s block, leave a comment below.

Quick note: I think this is the longest post I’ve written in months, so maybe (just maybe) I broke down some of those writer’s block walls!

More posts on writer’s block:

Do you have any tried and true writer’s-block-busting tricks? Tell us in the comments!

Writing by hand - I'm pretty sure it makes me smarter

I love technology.  You rarely see me out without BOTH my iPad and my iPhone.  But that being said, if you saw me at a conference, taking a course, interviewing someone or planning out a strategy, you would see me with a pen and paper.

I’ve long thought that my brain processes what I write by hand much better than what I type.  I believe it’s a combination of using a different part of my brain and writing more slowly, thereby having time to really digest the words.  I can type faster than I can process.

I did a little research googling and found studies to support this theory.  It seems I may be right, writing things out by hand can really make a difference! (note: I can’t use a stylus on my tablet to solve this problem because the lack of sensory feedback from the pen on the paper bothers me - I’m difficult like that.)

Take out a notebook

Here is my challenge to you. Take out a pen and a notebook and start writing by hand if:

- You need to do some planning;

- You have writer’s block;

- You’re interviewing someone for an article;

- You’re watching a webinar;

- You’re writing anything at all really, just give it a shot.

Pay attention.  Did it feel different?  Did thoughts start coming to you in ways they don’t when you’re typing?

Leave me a comment and tell me when the last time you took notes by hand instead of on a device of some kind.  Do you find it make a difference the way I do?